Should I pick the cheapest dedicated server provider or go somewhere in the middle?

Is the dedicated server market in a price war?  The market has been rife with low, low offers on cheap dedicated servers, including some as low as $30/month.  But the revolutionary pricing raises more than a few questions:  are the offers legitimate?  Is the savings worth it in the long run?

Choosing your dedicated server provider should be a more thorough and holistic process, based on price as well as other important elements that will direct your relationships with your webhost.  To help in that process, consider these other important factors before you risk your website, cluster hosting solution, and/or your company on one of these cheap dedicated servers.

I.  Service

II. Longevity

III.  Hardware

IV.  Extra Features

V.  Data Center

I.  Service

A webhost forced to offer their servers for rock-bottom prices is hoping that their low prices will drive demand – a lot of demand.  They’re clearly interested in moving a lot of server space quickly, and when that happens, their service can suffer as they are constantly turning around contracts, performing new setups and transfers, and troubleshooting basic errors.  Know your “must haves” in terms of service responsiveness from both the sales and the technical departments, and before you sign up for a cheap dedicated server, ask about their average ticket response times, extra and hidden service charges, hardware failure warranties, and critical issue monitoring to ensure that you know exactly what they will and won’t be responsible for.

II.  Longevity

In the long run, selling servers way below cost isn’t a sustainable business model—and without adding any other value to their service to you besides lower-than-cost pricing, these rock-bottom web hosts won’t be able to sustain business.  Before you buy a cheap dedicated server, make sure that you are satisfied about the financial and operational longevity of your host.  Buying a cheap server for 12 months from someone who will be out of business in 3 months isn’t a good deal at all.

III.  Hardware

Sure, technology gets old and thus cheap pretty quick these days.  But it’s worth asking questions to find out if the cheap dedicated servers you are considering purchasing are rife with old and unreliable hardware.  Be sure to ask how physically old your server is and specify what kinds of hardware it comes with and what the host’s policy is on hardware malfunctions.

IV. Extra features

Is the provider offering a server for dirt-cheap prices but marking up services that may come standard or free at other providers?  Don’t fall for this trick!  Know exactly what “extra” server features you’ll need in terms of management, monitoring, backups, OS, database hosting hardware, kernel updates, etc. and figure all of those into the overall cost of the server.

V.  Data Center

If a host is offering cheap servers in a mad dash for quick income from a sudden spike in demand, there business priorities and ethics could be wildly askew.  It’s worth taking time to inquire about the data center where your server is housed, and even visiting the center if possible or feasible.  A reliable data center should feature redundant power supply lines, a cooling and temperature monitoring system purpose-built for a server room, early-warning fire and smoke detection, and excellent physical security.

Before you sign on to a suspiciously “great deal” on a dedicated server, do your homework.  Only by knowing exactly what you need in a web host and server, and what your provider is offering, can you enjoy a positive and value-driving relationship together.